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McCormick will spice up Inner Harbor

When McCormick and Co. Inc. ventures into retail this summer, launching its first store at the Light Street Pavilion at Harborplace, the longtime local icon will bring with it a glimpse of Poland, Canada and France.

Though McCormick is still finalizing what will be sold in the store, Kathleen Haley, the company’s director of global branding and communications, said they hope to bring some of their international products to Harborplace.

Those brands include Billy Bee Honey based in Canada, Polish mustard brand Kamis, and Vahine, a French baking product line, Hayley said.

“We’re based here in Baltimore, and this is our headquarters and always will be, but we’ve expanded and we’ve grown up, especially in the last few years,” she said.

The “McCormick World of Flavors” 3,800-plus square-foot center will showcase the company’s products as well as hold cooking demonstrations by McCormick’s chefs and celebrity chefs using the firm’s products. There will be a gift shop and interactive family activities, such as finding your personal flavor profile and tracking the origin of spices.

“We’re not trying to do what grocery stores do,” said Jim Lynn, McCormick’s director of corporate communications. “This is a retail destination with several areas that focus on education about grilling, baking and cooking.

“This is part of a larger initiative. Many people think of McCormick, especially in Baltimore, as a local spice company. We’re more than that. We’re a global flavor company with brands around the world,” he said.

But the Sparks-based spice manufacturer has deep roots in Baltimore. The company’s legendary McCormick plant and headquarters stood at 414 Light St. from 1920 to 1989, just steps away from the future retail store’s location. The property is now a parking lot.

Anthony Patino, a marketing professor at the University of Baltimore’s Merrick School of Business, said McCormick’s choice to open its first — and so far only — planned retail store in Baltimore “looks like they are reinforcing their Baltimore roots.

“But that’s not bad. It’s going to be a tourist area,” he said, likening the planned store to the iconic Ghirardelli Chocolate store in San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Warf.

The opening comes at a good time, he said, when foodie culture is prevalent and competition cooking shows like “Top Chef” are racking up millions of viewers.

“These shows are doing really great numbers in the ratings and people are venturing out and looking for different types of spices,” Patino said.

The move by McCormick is a “shifting of their promotional dollars,” he said.

“Instead of just dropping coupons, they’re doing something that has a lasting impression. It’s like a promotional vehicle, like a museum,” he said. “I think if they’re expecting to generate income, they’ll be disappointed [in the short term].”

In the long term, it could increase brand awareness and grocery store sales, he said.

Store could open June 1

Christopher Schardt, senior general manager of Harborplace, said he hopes the store will open by June 1. The new store will be next door to Noodles & Co. and will take over the space of four previous first-floor retailers.

Schardt said he hopes McCormick’s will open at about the same time as the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. restaurant and the pavilion’s renovated food court. Plans to bring a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museum to Harborplace are still being worked out, he said.

Schardt said the new store will provide “a taste of Maryland with a Maryland-based company,” and reach all three of Harborplace’s target patrons: tourists, locals and the daytime business community.

“It’s certainly a tourist attraction during the summer months, but it also is becoming a destination for the local residents around the Inner Harbor and daytime population,” he said. “We think with McCormick, it’s hitting the groups that we’re trying to target.”